Fake Emails Foul Up Holiday Shopping for Many Consumers

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Millions of emails a day are being sent to consumers around the country with confirmations of what appear to be online shopping orders but are really fakes tied to damaging computer malware and other trickery.

Because so many real order confirmations are flying into in-boxes, these phony emails aren't as obvious as they might otherwise be. And those behind the phony emails make them resemble those sent by legitimate retailers, including Target (TGT), Walmart (WMT), Best Buy (BBY), Home Depot (HD) and Costco (COST), according to security blogger Brian Krebs.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-I am afraid more people will fall victims to hackers this year than ever before.%"The holiday season make us feel better. We become more trusting and, of course, more vulnerable," said DeVry University information sciences professor Rajin Koonjbearry. "We are also in a rush to get things done before the end of the year. Hackers seize the opportunity to prey on our holiday mood."

And he had a stark prediction: "I am afraid more people will fall victims to hackers this year than ever before."

The first wave of emails connected to the scam went out around Black Friday and Cyber Monday but have shown no sign of abating. The emails come with such subject lines as: "Thank you for your order," "Order Confirmation," "Acknowledgment of Order" and "Order Status," according to the computer security company Malcovery Security.

Those who click on the links risk triggering malware that can infect their computers and steal such things as your passwords. In addition, computer security experts like Krebs say the malware can put victims' computers under the control of cyber-thieves.

Before clicking on any links in an email, be sure it's from a legitimate source. The phony emails might say they're coming from a retailer that you could have used, but the email addresses that they're being sent from won't match up with Walmart.com, Target.com and other obviously authentic addresses.

DeVry's Koonjbearry offers the following tips:

  • If an email looks suspicious, delete it.
  • Be cautious clicking email links.
  • Keep your passwords secure.
  • Update anti-virus software regularly.
  • Shop on secure websites.
  • Get rid of apps you don't use.
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